Initials as names

Similar to the “Acronames” post of the other day, I was thinking today about nicknames I like that could conceivably be from initials … specifically I was thinking about Edie, and how much I like Edie, and how it would be really interesting to have Edie be a nickname for Elizabeth Dolores, for example. E.D.=Edie.

One of the commenters on the BNW Acronames post said she knows a little girl named Isabelle Verity who goes by Ivy (from her initials: I.V.). So clever!

I’m particularly interested in initials that sound like a recognized name, and then the nickname is actually spelled like that name, instead of using the initials. Like Edie instead of E.D., Ivy instead of I.V. I tried to think of some others and came up with:

M.E. — Emmy

L.E. — Ellie

S.E. — Essie

F.E. — Effie

J.C. — Jacey

K.C. — Casey

O.D. — Odie

L.C. — Elsie

A.D. — Adie

B.B. — Bebe

D.D. — Didi

C.C. — Cece

G.G. — Gigi

A.V. — Avie

E.V. — Evie

V.V. — Vivi

V.N. — Vienne

D.M. — Diem

D.O. — Deo

G.O. — Geo

T.O. — Teo

V.O. — Vio

I.C. — Icy (haha just kidding!) (unless you love it)

And Amy from the Baby Enloe consultation says she loves that her initials spell her name: A.M.E.

I’d love to see what others you all could come up with! It could be a really fun naming exercise to start with a nickname like this, like Ellie for example, and back into what L.E. combos could work. It just seems to open up a whole lot more options! You could feel free to go a little more nuts with the given names, knowing that an easier nickname is available, or it could make you feel easier about an unfavorite family name you feel bound to use.

Can you think of other examples like this? How about full names for the initials? Do you know anyone who has a name/initials/nickname like this?


Nickname: Gil (a tribute)

Did you all see that Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables, died this past week?

My heart breaks to hear this news! He brought Gil to life for me and a million others who love Anne, he was a true heartthrob. ❤

I love the nickname Gil, because of Gilbert Blythe, but Gilbert is not a name I’ve been able to warm up to. I’ve thought many times about ways to get to Gil without using Gilbert. Not so easy! I’ve come up with:



A hard G name with an L middle name or a middle name that ends in -il, like … Gideon Louis or Gregory Emil or Gallagher Lee. (I’m particularly loving Gideon Louis nicked Gil — I love Gideon, but its lack of natural nicknames is hard!)

(Also Gilroy, but I’m not feeling Gilroy.)

What about all of you? How would you get to Gil, if you didn’t want to use Gilbert? Anyone else devastated by Jonathan Crombie’s death?

Nicknames: Charles

My husband and I watched the 1975 BBC miniseries Poldark a while ago and, being the name nut I am, one of the things I remember the most clearly is how much I liked the name of the character Zacky Martin. The Zach- names have never been on my list (though if I had to choose my favorite I’d probably say Zachariah) (or Zechariah) (or Zacchaeus!!), and still Zacky struck me as just the greatest nickname. Maybe because it was on a middle-aged 18th-century British man that it felt a bit fresher? At any rate, my mind started clicking about Zacky … how could we work Zacky into the names we’d discussed for our boys? (I think I was pregnant with my youngest at the time.) What I came up with was: Charles.

Charles had long been on my list, being a family name, but neither of us cared for Charlie or Chuck. We liked Cal a lot, but I always worried it would turn into Callie. Watching Poldark, I totally convinced myself that Zacky could be a nickname for Charles. Charles ends in the Z sound after all (at least the way I say it), and starts with a C, and there’s an A in the middle, so I’d convinced myself that, since all the Zacky sounds and/or letters were contained within Charles, that it could totally work. (I still think so.) (I could never convince my husband.)

All that to say — Abby at Appellation Mountain has the best post of unusual/offbeat nicknames for Charles. I’ve referred to that post a few times, most recently last night as I was finishing up a name consultation. Zacky isn’t on the list (surprise!), but lots of other good ones, and one of them — Huck (!) — made me also think that Hutch could totally work for Charles. Check out Abby’s post and let me know what you think!

(Also — she spotlighted Zelie today!)

Baby name consultant: Nicknames for Carmela

A reader, whose baby girl is named Carmela, wrote asking for help coming up with good nickname options. She didn’t care for Ella or Carmen, and was stumped as to what other options there could be. I thought I could come up with some good possibilities, and this is what I ended up with:

My first thought was Carmie. I actually know one, and her given name is Carmela.

Another thought is Cara (said like “car” … or I guess you could change the pronunciation to “care” for the nickname if you wanted), which is nice because I believe it’s Italian for “dear/beloved.”

Or Caro (a traditional nickname for Caroline).

Or maybe Melly a la Melly (Melanie) Wilkes in Gone With the Wind, or just Mela (like Ella but not).






The middle initial could also help — if Carmela’s middle initial is S, maybe Cassie? If a T, maybe Cat? If a D, maybe Caddy?

What do you all think? Do you know anyone named Carmela, and if so does she go by a nickname? Do you have any other ideas besides the ones I listed here?

About nicknames

I’ve had a few people comment on how I always offer nickname suggestions for the names I discuss on here. On the one end, some say they’re not big nicknamers — they prefer their child to be called by the name that they gave him or her. On the other, some say they love nicknames, and have commented on a few of the more unusual/nontraditional ones I’ve suggested as ones they really like and had never thought of. I’m sure there are those of you in the middle — yeah, a good nickname can be cool, but you’re not stressed over pinning down the right one. Or you won’t not choose a name you like because you can’t think of a great nickname.

I totally get it! All of those perspectives! But I thought it might be helpful to detail why I focus so much on offering as many nickname options as I can think of.

For one thing, my family is made up of unrelenting nicknamers. I say that in the most affectionate way possible, because I love a good nickname, but unrelenting we are. For example, my mom and I were talking to a friend recently who is expecting her third boy. We asked her if she and her husband had decided on a name yet and she said yes, and so happily told us their selection, and we said, “How nice! And what are you going to call him?” and our friend’s face sort of froze in place, with the smile still there but a look behind it that said, “Didn’t I just tell you what we’re calling him?!”

Some people are just not nicknamers, and that is so totally fine, totally cool. Mom and I quickly laughed and assured her we will be just delighted to call the baby by his name and poked fun at our own selves for being crazy nicknamers and she laughed and all was jolly and forgiven. (I hope.)

That wouldn’t fly in my family, though. In my family, if the parents of the baby don’t decide what nickname they want the baby to be called, the baby will very likely end up with a nickname that the parents might not like. So my husband and I carefully — and with great fun — weighed each name’s merits by whether or not it had a good nickname, and if not, could a good one be created? Especially since my dad loves to tell people that he loves the name Anastasia, that they should totally consider it for their baby, especially since it has the amazing nickname of … wait for it … “Nasty.” Oh how he howls with laughter at that! And so do we all, for dear old Dad, but all of us also with the firm conviction that we will never use the name Anastasia because we’re just not totally sure Dad’s joking.

(And even if a nickname is chosen and promoted and lives are threatened if any other nickname is used, there’s still the chance of a crazy nickname. My brother has called me Blu since high school. It would take far too long to explain why; suffice it to say that, while I appreciate the affection behind it, it’s not a name I want everyone to call me.)

For another thing, regarding nicknames, we talk about some pretty amazing but maybe somewhat heavy-for-everyday-use names here at Sancta Nomina. Solanus. Cornelius. Bartholomew. Quadragesimus. Amazing names for amazing people; names that call to mind feats of faith, lives offered up, miracles performed, love of God oozing from every story of their lives; names that reflect the weightiness with which we want our children to view their faith and the holy love of God.

But those sweet babies of ours will be hanging upside down from the monkey bars. They will be putting worms in their little brother’s hair. They will be drawing on walls and eating candy contraband while hiding behind chairs and screaming during Mass and sassing their mothers and falling asleep in our arms like sweet lambies who wouldn’t dream of doing anything mischievous. And how the heck do you even pronounce their given name anyway? (Say some of the relatives who have never heard of St. Apollonia.) It’s just kind of nice sometimes to be able to call such a child by a sweet normal-ish nickname rather than VerySeriousFirstName. And it’s nice to have options as to what that nickname might be.

Where do you fall on the nickname spectrum? Yea, nay, or somewhere in between?

Feminine first name, masculine middle

Let’s sidetrack for one moment and talk about the O’Hara sisters:

Katie Scarlett, called Scarlett

Susan Elinor, called Suellen

Caroline Irene, called Carreen

Oh my. Margaret Mitchell did an amazing job.

This post was inspired by Gone With the Wind’s well-named main character (I think Scarlett O’Hara is one of the best character names ever), but it’s not about her, and not even about a character created by Margaret Mitchell, but about a character created by Alexandra Ripley, who (as I understand it) had been commissioned by Margaret Mitchell’s estate to write a sequel to GWTW. Though her effort, Scarlett, wasn’t nearly as good as GWTW, I loved reading an end to Scarlett and Rhett’s story (ooh how I hated the way GWTW ended), and one of the fabulous details she imagined was another child, Scarlett and Rhett’s, a little girl, whom Scarlett named Katie Colum (after her cousin, an Irish priest named Colum, to whom she had grown close) (she was nicknamed Cat).

I just swooned over Katie Colum! I thought it was so clever, a feminine first name with a masculine middle. I was thinking about it this morning, because I know a little girl named Annie Ryan — that’s her given name, first and middle — and it totally works. It’s so charming! Ryan is a family last name for her, so she doesn’t technically have a boy’s name for a middle, even though of course Ryan is a boy’s first name.

I tried to think of other combinations that could have a similar feel as Katie Colum and Annie Ryan — names that are clearly girly even though the middle is masculine. What I came to was, the first name seems to need to be kind of *really* girly, not just feminine — not Katherine but Katie. Not Anne but Annie. And the middle name can’t be just any masculine name, I don’t think. I thought Gracie James could work. Maybe Rosie Ray. And I’ve long thought that starting with Mary makes any name do-able for a girl, but does it? Could a girl really pull off Mary Maverick? Or Mary Thomas? Actually Mary Charles sounds kind of intriguing, but even then I’d likely want to find an everyday nickname like maybe Macy, and not call her Mary Charles all the time. Certainly this brings to mind the religious names — Sr. Mary Edward or even Sr. Charles Francis — but that’s different than giving the name to a baby girl and intending to use the whole name as the everyday name. (I also know a little Elinor James, but she goes by Elinor/Ellie, so not exactly what I mean.)

I think this might be more common in the South? Where there’s a feminine first name but a masculine or lastname middle? But then I think the tradition is to go by the middle name all the time? Like Jane Prentiss who goes by Prentiss? Do any of you know any girls or women with names like this? Or can you think of other possibilities like Katie Colum and Annie Ryan?

Baby name consultant: Baby #4, a girl

Mama Jessie, who’s due in less than three weeks!, wrote asking for help with naming her little girl. She and her husband already have Noah, Owen, and Eleanor (nicknamed Ella), and in considering names for the new little one, she wrote, “We both would like a saint name somewhere in there but aren’t particular about whether it is first or second … My one firm rule is that if the first name is over 2 syllables, I have to have a way to nickname it down to 2 or less … Names we both love that we have considered are Gianna, and Philomena. We are struggling with both though bc we don’t have a nickname for either that we like (Gia, Anna, Lola, Fila, Minnie and mena are all no gos) Plus we aren’t even sure Philomena is a saint since apparently there was some change in the 1960s and we have been told yes and no by different sources. My husband loves Terese. I can’t nickname it and worry about mispronunciation. My absolute favs are Lucy and Magdalena, both which my husband likes but he would want Lucy to be a nickname and has ruled out Luciana and Lucia , or he needs a nickname for Magdalena that is not Maggie or Lena. We both really like Grace for a middle name but aren’t set on it. I’d love something that matches the feel of both Eleanor/Ella like my first little girl but by the time I weigh everything else, I can hardly think about that too.”

First off, I too love nicknames — having one is pretty much a rule for me — so I enjoyed trying to think of some for Gianna and Philomena. For Gianna, besides the Gia and Anna that Jessie said they couldn’t use, I thought of Gina and Nina (which I particularly like), and I also know a little Gianna who goes by Gigi. For Philomena, I loved all the nicknames they’d already considered and discarded — nice job Mom and Dad! — and I contributed Pia, Pippa, Pina, Fina, Finn or Finna, and Pim to the list. Regarding Philomena as a saint, I’d never heard anything about her not being one until Jessie’s email! I looked it up — she’s in all my saints’ names books, but this article says differently (and quite convincingly): Why is Philomena No Longer Considered a Saint? Its use is certainly a mark of a super-Catholic family, and even the article I linked to above said, “In fact, this may actually not be the name of the person in the tomb at all, for the Greco-Latin roots of the word simply mean ‘lover of the light,’ and thus the tomb-inscription may have been intended as a description of the deceased person rather than her personal name.” So if one wanted to use it in that way — because of its meaning, and that meaning’s connection to God and His Truth — that would be quite valid, in my opinion, and quite faith-filled. It would definitely make an interesting story for a little girl named Philomena!

But I try to give three suggestions when considering a name dilemma, and I decided not to include Gianna or Philomena in my final three. Rather, my first is:

(1) Louisa

Louisa is inspired by Jessie’s love of Lucy and her husband’s desire for Lucy to be a nickname for a more formal name. He doesn’t like Lucia or Luciana, so I’ll throw out there that Lucinda and Lucille are also common Luc- names. But I’ve long thought Lucy would be a natural nickname for Louisa, and I love Louisa. It totally has the same feel to me as Eleanor — in fact, Eleanor is included in the list of similar girl names to Louisa in the Baby Name Wizard book (which I consider to be basically the most expert of all name books), which is just like striking gold to me, because Jessie had said, “I’d love something that matches the feel of both Eleanor/Ella like my first little girl but by the time I weigh everything else, I can hardly think about that too.” And with either St. Louis de Montfort of Bl. Louisa Therese (!) de Montaignac de Chauvance (who I knew nothing about until I looked up Louisa in one of my books! She was beatified by JP2, which is very cool) as a patron saint, Louisa nn Lucy, to me, satisfies everything Jessie seemed to want in a name. I love Louisa Grace, as they like Grace as a middle name, or Louisa Therese like Bl. Louisa.

Despite a name’s seeming perfection on paper, though, sometimes it just doesn’t do the trick. So my second suggestion is:

(2) Magdalena

Jessie described Magdalena as her other favorite along with Lucy, but said her hubby doesn’t care for Maggie or Lena. Well. If all that’s standing in the way of them using this gorgeous name is the right nickname, I think I got them covered. What about: Magda, Meg, Molly or Dolly, Madge, Mandy, Mae/May, or Maddy? Magdalena Grace is so pretty, and as a special bonus, Molly is listed as a name with similar feel as Noah in the Baby Name Wizard book! I really think Magdalena nn Molly could work, I love how Molly bridges the style between Magdalena and Noah, Molly totally feels like it could fit with Eleanor/Ella to me, and it’s Irish like Owen! Woo!

(3) Terese

My final suggestion is Terese. I do love this name. I’d never seen it spelled that way before (I was only familiar with Therese), but I looked it up and apparently it’s the Basque and Scandinavian form of Teresa, according to my trusty source — I like it! The two pronunciations I’m familiar with, and I believe they’re both valid, are teh-REHZ and teh-REESE. One of my very favorite nicknames in the whole world is Tess, which is a traditional nn for the Theresa names; I’ve also seen Reese used as a nn when the teh-REESE pronunciation is used. (As an aside, I once heard of twin sisters Aurora and Therese that were nicknamed Rory and Reese. So cute!) I don’t mind Reese — it’s fun and spunky — but I adore Tess (it’s quite high on our own girl list). If neither Tess or Reese suits though, Tea, Tracy, Tessa, and Tressa are all nickname for the Theresa names (Tea and Tessa/Tressa probably more so for Theresa itself rather than T(h)erese, but I personally see no reason you couldn’t use them if you wanted to for Terese). My personal preference would be for a different middle than Grace with Terese, just for flow — I quite like Terese Magdalena.

So that’s what I got! What do you all think? Do you have any other idea or suggestions for Jessie and her husband?

Spotlight on: Juniper

Taylor asked for a spotlight on Juniper, and in light of Pope Francis’ recent announcement that he’ll canonize Bl. Junipero Serra when he visits later this year, I’m delighted to do so.

Junipero is all male to me, because of Serra, but Juniper is only feminine to my ear; it’s listed as a girl name at Behind the Name, but its entry at Namipedia is a bit more gender neutral. I’m a big fan of boy names for boys, meaning unambiguously male names (except for something really obvious like Mary as a middle name), so I think I’d have a hard time with Juniper for a boy. If anything can change that though, a new saint could!

For a girl though, I’ve seen it talked about a time or two, like when Swistle discussed it and a few times on Baby Name Wizard (here, here, here, here …), and it’s really grown on me. The nicknames are just the sweetest — Junie? Come on. It could not be any cuter. Juno’s another option, and of course just June. Up until now I’ve thought of Juniper as kind of a hippie name, but from here on out I’m going to be thinking all saint, which is so great.

What do you think of Juniper? Do you know anyone named Juniper? Does he or she go by a nickname? Would you consider using Juniper for a boy?

Mash-up names

I was reading last night a tiny bit about Bl. John Piamarta, who I’d never heard of before. I was immediately drawn to his last name, Piamarta, as I assumed that it was a mash-up of Pia (the feminine of Pius, Latin for “pious”) and Marta (a form of Martha). I don’t know if it is, but even if that’s not the origin of Bl. John’s last name, one could decide to make such a combo a first name for a girl, and what a pretty name it would be. (I’ve always loved the idea of Pia, but I think it take some thick skin for a child to have that name today, because of what else it sounds like. Adding it onto another name is a nice way to get around that though, I think.)

Bl. John Piamarta made me think of other mash-up names I’ve heard. The first that came to mind was Maristela, which I had not heard of until someone suggested it for Simcha. I of course was familiar with Stella, and Stella Maris, but what a lovely way to reconfigure the name with Maristela! (Or Maristella.)

I’ve also always loved the name Maite, which is a contraction of Maria Teresa. Gorgeous on its own, or as a nickname for Maria Teresa. Maricruz was a character on the TV show Prison Break.

I had a hard time finding a listing of more like that. A search for “contraction baby names,” which is how Maite was described (a contraction of Maria and Teresa) gave me info on labor contractions. Try again! A search for “mash-up names” resulted in an article about Bettylou and Maryjane-type names — but I didn’t mean two separate names connected with no change (which, yes, is what Piamarta is, but still). I tried “compound names” and came up with a really fun article about contracting a longer name down to a shorter, like Anastasia–>Asia, which is really fun for nicknames and a technique I myself have suggested, but it’s not two names contracted together.

It would be fun to make some up, like … John Paul–>Jopa. Okay, maybe not. Maristella and Maricruz sound so reverent to me, probably because the elements aren’t so hidden, so it’s easy to see what names they came from. So then maybe I’m being crazy, because we have so many beautiful names like that already.

What mash-up/combo names are you familiar with? What are your favorites?

Baby name consultant: baby #8, a boy

Sarah and David are expecting their eighth baby, a little boy. Sarah describes them as “your typical Catholic family and like traditional (preferably French or Irish) names.” They have seven children already, named:

Zoe Olivia

Brady Patrick

Michael Joseph

Katherine Mary-Claire

Margaret Rose

George Thomas

Matthew David

They have some names they’re considering, but they don’t want to share them as they really want a fresh perspective. In trying to come up with suggestions, I was struck by what seems to be a difference in style between Zoe’s and Brady’s first names and the names of the rest of the kids. So I relied heavily on the style of Zoe and Brady when musing on names for #8, while also keeping in mind that their younger children have very traditional names.

I used both Nymbler and Name MatchMaker for ideas, and I usually shoot for three suggestions, as I’ve done for others. So my ideas for this little baby are:

(1) Henry

It was the first name that came to my mind, even before checking out the name matching sites, and it was one of the first names they suggested. Brady, Michael, George, Matthew, and Henry sound like a great set of brothers, and I love it with the girls’ names as well.

(2) Myles

As soon as I saw Myles I thought it was a great fit. I think it’s a little more offbeat than Michael, George, and Matthew, which makes me think it’s a great bridge between their names and Brady’s. It does make for a lot of M’s, but with so many kids I don’t think that matters much, and besides — one of my favorite things about Myles is that it can be considered a Marian name! One of my name books, Oxford Dictionary of First Names, says that Maolra is a “[m]odern spelling, common particularly in the west of Ireland, of earlier Maoil-Mhuire ‘devotee of Mary.’ It has been anglicized as Myles.” It’s Irish, it’s Marian, it seems more stylistically consistent with Brady than your other boys’ names, I love this idea! (Do note though that the spelling of Miles is unrelated.)

(3) William

I love William for you. Its traditional-ness is a great style match for your younger boys, and its current popularity, as well as both nicknames Will and Liam (though I know Liam can stand on its own), seem well suited as Brady’s brother. I wouldn’t mind if you chose just Liam as the first name, but William seems just that much more a better match in my opinion.

Oliver was a heavy contender for me until I remembered that Zoe’s middle name is Olivia, and Charles and Jude also struck me as possibles, but in the end I settled on Henry, Myles, and William. If I had to choose a middle name, not knowing anything about how you choose them (family names?), I’d guess Francis.

What do you all think? What names would you suggest for Sarah and David’s baby boy?